It drives us crazy that Americans go hungry. Children, the elderly, whole families facing malnourishment and even starvation are an insult to the values on which our nation was based. We're a wealthy nation, and one that has always prided itself on our sense of fair play — so how is it that not everybody is getting enough to eat?
A couple of our editors used to work for a website called Always Hungry NY (since folded into The Daily Meal). The sense of that name was of always having an appetite for more and better gustatory delights. For all too many people, though, "always hungry" describes not a pleasant state of craving but a harsh reality.
As Americans we face an ever-increasing food dilemma. Both hunger and the unavailability of the right foods plague our social system. As fresh produce prices rise and junk food proliferates, we seem to be approaching a world that offers low-nutrient foods for most, no food for some, and healthy food for only those who can afford it.
The Daily Meal is dedicated to good things to eat and drink, on every level, from street food to sublime cuisine, but we frankly don't spend as much time as we should thinking about those to whom, as Paul Simon once put it, "The evening meal is negotiable, if there is one." With the weather taking a cold turn and the holidays, with their attendant feasting, fast approaching, things can become even more difficult for those less fortunate.
Food Day, as the Center for Science in the Public Interest has designated Oct. 24, is "a nationwide celebration and a movement toward more healthy, affordable, and sustainable food." Food Day aims to "expand access to food and alleviate hunger," and "to transform the American diet." "Regardless of age or race or income or geographic location," their mission statement explains, all people "should be able to select healthy diets and avoid obesity, heart disease, and other diet-related conditions." With food as our driving concern, we decided to think about ways in which we might do our part to help in this goal.
We searched the Internet and canvassed friends and colleagues and came up with 44 ideas for things that almost any of us can do right now to start making a difference. Some are nationwide initiatives, while some are very local — but even the local ones can serve as inspiration for those of us who live in another place. Some are sponsored by huge companies, others are grassroots efforts. Some are as simple as clicking a link; others are as time-consuming and collaborative as planting and tending a garden. There are products to buy, places to donate, things to watch. You can even make a contribution by going bowling, throwing a party, or even moving homes. They aren't definitive solutions to the nation’s hunger, but they're a start.
There's a corny old saying about how it's better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness. We'd add that it's better to deliver dinner for Meals on Wheels or tweet an American hunger awareness reminder or support farm-food processing through Adopt-an-Acre than to simply eat another meatball slider or chutoro maki or sole meunière without a second thought for those to whom hunger is an always thing.
But you don’t have to stop with what you'll find here. There are hundreds upon hundreds of other things you can do to make a difference. If you're actively involved in American hunger relief in ways we haven't mentioned, know of other worthwhile programs, or just have some good ideas that you think can be acted upon, let us know in the comments below.
Colman Andrews is The Daily Meal's editorial director. Follow him on Twitter @Colmanandrews.